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There’s a big Georgian building in Ivy I’ve mentioned before, it’s an offshoot of UVA that offers free and open forums to citizens every month with leaders on the world stage. Its mission is to decode public policy for the rest of us, and its “American Forum” can be viewed on PBS – if there is still a PBS in the future:

“At the Miller Center, we strive to illuminate presidential and political history accurately and fairly. To shine a light on all the ways our democracy has worked—and all the times America has struggled. To inspire America’s leaders with unbiased insights, especially on the presidency, that advance democratic institutions and the public good.” https://millercenter.org

Because I felt like I needed some illuminating, I bid farewell to Bob, who was waiting at home for painters, and drove into town to hear Gerald F Seib (Wall Street Journal’s Executive Washington Editor and Chief Commentator) pontificate on presidential power at the Miller Center. As makeup artists powdered their faces, and the lights dimmed for filming, American Forum’s host, Douglas Blackmon, prepared to interview Seib about Donald Trump. The room was so packed I was squeezed onto a pew sitting sidesaddle. Seniors and students alike, we were all eager to understand Trumpland.

Seib told us that reaching out directly to US citizens is nothing new, that President Obama actually liked to cut out the main stream media and talk to real people. Utilizing Twitter however is a new phenomena.  Labeling media the “…enemy of the American people” is not just new, it’s dangerous. He called Trump a “Master at Communicating,” in that he creates bright shiny objects (Tweets) every day in order to control the media.

Seib also told us time and again that we must take everything a President says seriously; when his aides tell us not to take his statements – like the wiretapping charge against Obama – literally, we the public and the media must still consider his words seriously. The surveillance charge is a diversion, it puts the others (his media enemies) on the defensive.

And although I like to think the purpose of journalism is to afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted (Scotty Reston), Seib told us that reporters need to explain and put into context a leader’s words. His job is to analyze in depth, to find the meaning and illuminate facts. He emphasized the one thing journalists have is our credibility, ditto for presidents, then he asked us how will we know when to take Trump seriously – if everything he says isn’t?

I thought of Peter and the Wolf.

He did acknowledge that Rupert Murdoch bought the WSJ years ago, but insisted that his editorial pages have been critical of Trump. And he told us about some memos that had been circulating; saying it’s fine to call certain statements “False” but not “Lies,” not until they are proven to have come from a person’s conscious intent…“and nobody has skirted around facts like Donald Trump.”

Seib warned reporters not to let their attitude substitute for the facts. In other words, don’t become the story you were covering. Harder and harder to do these days I imagine. With UVA Communications majors sitting in the orchestra seats, Blackmon asked what one piece of advice he would give to a young journalist today. “Be honest!”

Seib went on to say he would tell Mr T he must be careful not to devalue his currency (ie credibilty) and to understand and accept that a free press is good for democracy and he should not diminish it!

In short, the Bully Pulpit is still real, it exists and it’s easier than ever to get everybody’s attention. And today, similar to Nixon’s Watergate era, we reporters must be willing to, “…suspend disbelief”…one story at a time. In order to write about the news today we must  “temporarily accept as believable, events or characters that would ordinarily be seen as incredible. This is usually to allow an audience to appreciate works of literature or drama that are exploring unusual ideas.” http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/suspension-of-disbelief.html        Yes sir, that’s the best definition of Trumpland so far!

Let’s hope Mr T doesn’t lay his hands on Angela Merkel while he’s talking trade with Germany. No shoulder rubs for the President who grabs you know what. Seriously. And let’s also hope Tillerson does no harm in Asia. Although he refused to bring the press with him, so how will we know? Not to worry, Andrea Mitchell is on the job.  This is the season to lay mulch at the feet of Buddha, and have faith that North Korea doesn’t take Tillerson seriously.

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Beware what you put out there on social media. Through my jet lag fog I witnessed a battle royal last night on Facebook, one my sweet LA niece had no reason to be embroiled in, and I thought how a Shakespearian tragedy can unfold in real time with absolutely no effort. This semantic sparring had something to do, well everything really, with our President Elect (who shall forever be named Mr T to me). Just as our local political news is indirectly related to a newly discovered free/for/all/climate of intimidation and fear in the wake of last month’s election.

A young Black man, an activist who moved to Cville about the same time we did, is being vilified in the local press over some Twitter comments he made years ago. Wes Bellamy was a high school history teacher and the Vice Mayor of the Cville City Council – two positions I just learned he either voluntarily left or was asked to leave yesterday. I first met him at the Paramount when he was introducing a petition to remove General Robert E Lee’s statue from Lee Park. It was before the Confederate Flag issue had raised its ugly head in parts of the South. He struck me as sincere, and fired up about social justice.

But because a local blogger found a few 8 year old Tweets where Bellamy said some repugnant things, statements others have concluded were racist and sexist including, wait for it, “…beanpole body white women in these sundresses”…thank you for that sir since my beanpole days are far behind me, Bellamy issued this apology on Facebook:

“In the course of trying to mature and find my way I came to some false conclusions about the world around me and made them known,” Bellamy wrote. “Since then, I’ve furthered my education and gotten married. I’m raising daughters. I have and continue to strive to be a better man, community leader, educator, public servant and overall person. I work every day to become a better version of myself.” 

What surprises me is that Mr T has gotten away with saying and Twittering much worse. But I guess this is what male White privilege is all about. Cville Weekly calls our attention to an Albemarle County Supervisor, Chris Dumler, who was accused of raping a woman and continued to do his job while in jail and he had no intention of leaving his position! I was always loathe to use the term ” high tech lynching for uppity Blacks,” a la Clarence Thomas for you young’uns, but in this case it would actually seem to fit the bill. http://www.c-ville.com/tweetstorm-bellamy-apologizes-inappropriate-posts/#.WEBfjRRaHlI

So in the spirit of the season let me call your attention to an article my friend’s son ironically posted on Facebook from the NY Times, an essay on why social media may not just be an uncivilized wasteland and vortex of your precious time, but may also be detrimental to your overall health and career:  “There are many issues with social media, from its corrosion of civic life to its cultural shallowness, but the argument I want to make here is more pragmatic: You should quit social media because it can hurt your career.” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/jobs/quit-social-media-your-career-may-depend-on-it.html?mwrsm=Facebook&_r=0

As my dear late Sister-in-Law Anita would say, this is all “STUPID!” She had a way of seeing through the fog of problems, and getting directly to a point. She would tell our lovely niece to cut all ties with people who hate people and spread nasty comments all over her Facebook feed. I’ve lost a few friends and family myself this past year, and I’m honored to be in her company.

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man” or woman.  the Bard   This is the long view from our LA AirBnB. img_5664

 

 

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If only I believed in soothsayers, fortune tellers and psychics. I’d make a killing in the stock market, and be able to prevent any slip-ups coming my way in 2015. Although I’ve learned my lesson about bounce houses – they are dangerous emporiums disguised as attractive rainy day activity palaces – I’ve also learned to look down more often while walking. And not at my Iphone!

Ellen DeGeneres is predicting that 2015 will be the “Year of Baby Goats.” In her classic deadpan style she said on Twitter that 2014 was the “Year of the Selfie,” and she should know since she broke the internet with that star-studded Oscar selfie. But when I read about the goats I thought, that is sooo last year. Now if you don’t know anything about goats sounding like people on YouTube, here you go. You’ll thank me later. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nlYlNF30bVg

Which started me thinking, what makes a trend, and can we really predict them? Remember the snap bracelet, well that’s back strangely enough. And who ever thought those Ugg boots would catch on, even the Love Bug has a pair. Let’s go to Buzzfeed and see what’s “trending” shall we. http://www.buzzfeed.com/trending

The first story is about that guy who found a steel turning rod in his arm from his Thunderbird, 51 years after crashing into a truck! Again I say, pshaaaw (or some such gutteral French sound). Years ago my brother, Dr Jim, found a piece of glass that had migrated out of his arm 20 years after falling onto a glass while he was an undergrad at Columbia University. And the Flapper had to have teeth extracted from her jaw 30 years after her accident in our Year of Living Dangerously. It seems that dentistry after a near fatal car accident in 1949 was not very evolved, they just fitted her with dentures and figured her teeth must be on the road somewhere?

Meanwhile the death of a great Progressive, the Lion of Liberalism in NY, Mario Cuomo is trending on Twitter today. I always wondered why he didn’t run for President, that’s how much the Flapper and I loved Cuomo. And I’m willing to predict that just as the news footage of Blacks being attacked by police dogs in Selma long ago helped turn the corner for Civil Rights, the proliferation of YouTube videos, of citizen reporters filming injustice in their neighborhoods, will spark a larger conversation about social justice. Here is an excerpt from Cuomo’s famous 1984 speech about equality:

We believe we must be the family of America, recognizing that at the heart of the matter, we are bound one to another; that the problems of a retired school teacher in Duluth are our problems; that the future of the child—that the future of the child in Buffalo is our future; that the struggle of a disabled man in Boston to survive and live decently is our struggle; that the hunger of a woman in Little Rock is our hunger; that the failure anywhere to provide what reasonably we might, to avoid pain, is our failure.

http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2015/mario-cuomo-dead-1984-speech?mbid=social_twitter

Notice how he starts out with “WE.” And so my hope for us, my prediction for 2015, is that we turn away from so much turmoil and trending social media nonsense like baby goats, that we vote out gun enthusiasts, and that we practice being “tender” with each other this year as Pope Francis said. Cheers to a Tender New Year!

Out with the Old Selfie!

Out with the Old Selfie!

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CLIMATE CHANGE RALLY MELBOURNE

Today is the People’s Climate March all over the World. My Twitter feed has been buzzing with all the climate scientists I follow, like Michael Mann, the ex-UVA prof who was actually sued by our AJ and WON his right to teach about the “hockey stick” stats of climate change https://mountainmornings.net/2012/01/14/baby-its-cold-outside/

Although 161 countries will participate, New York City will be action central today with thousands pouring into the streets (stay uptown Kay!) along with the United Nation’s Director, Ban Ki-moon. The UN will host a Climate Summit on Tuesday with 125 heads of state

He (Ban) will join thousands of people on the streets of Manhattan, including business leaders, environmentalists and celebrities. Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio will also attend, having been appointed as a UN representative on climate change last week. http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-29301969

But here in Cville, volunteer marchers/searchers are combing the area for the second day in a row for any clues to the disappearance of Hannah Graham. It’s been a confusing weekend. Our Police Chief gave an inspiring press conference, saying they have a “person of interest” in their scope, that they have searched his car and his apartment, but they have yet to make an arrest. People are wondering what he’s waiting for, did they ever question him, do they need more evidence, or is their suspect in the wind?

Also his name, Jesse Matthew, was leaked on Twitter yesterday by our local newspaper, the Daily Progress, and by our NBC affiliate, some commenters said he was a UVA employee. However, this morning on the Today Show, they refused to name him! So they have this “person of interest” the last person seen with Graham, stalking her on video, they have his car and the contents of his place, and they have a witness who saw him buying her a drink…http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2759584/UVA-student-Hannah-Graham-FIFTH-young-woman-five-years-vanish-Route-29-corridor-one-body-found.html

Bob searched the brush around our yard in town, and all he found was a soccer ball. If someone saw her getting into Matthew’s car, she could be anywhere. He has been described as “…a black male, 6ft., 250lbs. with dreadlocks.” My prayers are with Hannah Graham’s family this Sunday. Latest update – police have confirmed his name, still no arrest. http://www.insidenova.com/headlines/updated-police-confirm-jesse-lj-matthew-person-of-interest-in/article_865681c2-4040-11e4-a18b-0710e0693940.html

I wonder if they put dreads on the police sketch they have of Morgan Harrington’s killer? I wonder if Bob ever met him in the hospital, where he works as a nurse’s aide?

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I got my first hater the other day on Twitter, “Captain so and so” I forgot his made up, cowardly name. The problem was, I was just getting out of the shower, so I made the mistake of favoriting him and actually retweeted because I didn’t have my glasses on; and it never would have occurred to me  that someone might hate me?! Little old me? But hate he did, pasting a link to an article where some Kroger clerks got beat up outside their store. Threatening much?

Why? Because I had the audacity to take a picture of my lox and bagel lunch and post it with the hashtag,

#Groceries Not Guns.

I was thanking Panera Bread for their delish bagel and for instituting a sane gun policy in their stores, ie no open carry please. Leave your ammo at home! Then later I took a picture of my grocery cart at Whole Foods, filled with produce and such and said:IMG_1084

Love @WholeFoods #GroceriesNotGuns too bad @HarrisTeeter n Kroeger     

That’s Twitterspeak for let’s all boycott Kroger and Harris Teeter because they allow open-carry-gun-toting-zealots into their stores and I don’t want to bear witness to such foolishness.  This campaign by Moms Demand Action recently resulted in Target changing its gun policy, and I must admit I feel a little thrill each time I post something; like a revolutionary, I’m proud to join the ranks of Shannon Watts and these moms.

At home in an Indianapolis suburb the morning following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, Shannon Watts, a 41-year-old former public relations executive and mother of five, created a Facebook page calling for a march on the nation’s capital: “Change will require action by angry Americans outside of Washington, D.C. Join us—we will need strength in numbers against a resourceful, powerful and intransigent gun lobby.” The seed for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America—today a national organization backed by nearly 200,000 members and millions of dollars—had been planted. “I started this page because, as a mom, I can no longer sit on the sidelines. I am too sad and too angry,” Watts wrote. “Don’t let anyone tell you we can’t talk about this tragedy now—they said the same after Virginia Tech, Gabby Giffords, and Aurora. The time is now.” http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/09/moms-demand-action-guns-madd-shannon-watts-nra

Using social media in a way that MADD could never have dreamed – which one doesn’t belong? –10635909_879992738677881_2827510542402008695_nto change the culture of drunk driving, this movement is winning hearts and minds of people who own guns, and have permits, and store them securely, and would never in a million years carry an AK47 into a grocery store! Pointing out the absurdity of the NRA’s policy is one goal, changing our wild west culture and getting the NRA out of the pockets of lobbyists is another.

It’s about time we women fought back. The Violence Against Women Act celebrated its 20th anniversary yesterday. If you’d like to learn more, this article is for you: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/50-actual-facts-about-dom_b_2193904.html

“Number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq: 6,614:
Number of women, in the same period, killed as the result of domestic violence in the US: 11,766”

I blocked my hater on Twitter, haters gonna hate. I refuse to be intimidated. Three women a day are killed in this country by an intimate partner. It’s not just the NFL that has a problem. Teach your children well.

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As some of you may know, I signed up to follow the Parnassus Bookstore blog, Musing, almost as soon as it launched. I follow its editor, Mary Laura Philpott, on Twitter too. It’s a fun way to keep up with literary happenings in my daughter’s adopted city, Nashville. And a recent post on Musing made me wonder if I had ever been afraid to read something, anything. I won’t go to horror movies, but that’s different. I’m aware that I’ll read crime and mystery novels only on vacation – like the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series – but me, afraid to read something? Never!

In “Reading (and Writing) Through Fear” Philpott reviewed a book that she admits she normally wouldn’t read. The Bear, by Claire Cameron, is written from the point-of-view of a five year old; a terrified child who has just witnessed a bear kill her parents. Certainly horrific territory, and granted it is maybe a book I would pick up in a bookstore, read the jacket, and put down. Not necessarily because I’d be frightened by the content, but when you have lost a family as a child, as I did in my first year of life, it’s not something I would want to read about. In the same way that Bob doesn’t like to see war pictures, since his work is sometimes like a war zone. He gets enough adrenalin in the ER.

But then, Philpott interviewed the author. Cameron said that before she had children she wasn’t afraid of anything, but then…

…my sons were born. The first time a babysitter came over to look after my six-month old, I stood outside the front door and could barely make myself walk away. It was, I realized, a new kind of fear. It’s one that comes alongside loving someone else completely, be it a child, partner, lover or friend. The world is big. It can be scary. And I couldn’t protect the people I love at every given moment.

While I was working on the first draft of The Bear, I thought I was writing about that — the fear of not being able to protect my children from everything. After I finished, I talked to a friend about the story. Knowing me well, she said that I was actually writing about my fear of not being a parent. What if something happened to me and I wasn’t there for them? The minute she said it, I knew she was right.http://parnassusmusing.net/2014/03/06/reading-what-you-fear/#more-660

So I bought the book. Because it’s always interesting to see how an author finds the authentic magical thinking voice of a child. And because I knew I was deep-down afraid to read it. And the only way to keep growing, is to challenge that fear.

And today I’m going to read The New Yorker article, “The Reckoning” by Andrew Solomon, about his interview with the father of Adam Lanza, the Sandy Hook killer. This really scares me, but I hope that some insight for some struggling parent out there will come through his words. When I heard Solomon say on a news show that Adam’s mother Nancy was more interested in Adam having a “good day” instead of a “good life” it sealed the deal. Sometimes a parent can live in so much denial, they begin to believe in the insular, sclerotic world their child has created. A world in which the bear is the child himself.  Unknown-1

 

 

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Tonight on “60 Minutes” our VA Senator Creigh Deeds will address candidly, for the first time, the events that led to his son’s attack and subsequent suicide. He’ll talk about the plight of the mentally ill. Every month Bob, and I’m sure many other ER physicians in our state, must discharge one or more patients because their psych unit cannot access a psych bed in ANY VA hospital. But I wonder if he’ll address guns.

The following is an essay from a father, an anesthesiologist who trained with the Bride and Groom at UVA. A friend of my daughter’s. He was at the Maryland mall yesterday with his almost 2 year old daughter. I thought it was “funny” that I learned about the shooting incident via Twitter, and then went to CNN’s website to read many of their sources were Twitter. And then I moved on, because it is too heartbreaking to feel for EVERY SINGLE ONE of these senseless acts and because I’ve become cynical. After all, it seems nothing can change, no bills for background checks can get past the NRA…and yet, we turned our state a darker blue…so maybe, one state at a time? These are his words:

“I spent most of yesterday feeling scared and shaken up. When I heard the gun shots so close to me I had so much adrenalin pumping through my body that as I ran out of the play yard with Meenakshi I couldn’t even see properly and I grabbed our stroller on the way out with all Meenakshi’s food, diapers, etc and in the process spilled hot coffee all over my left leg. I didn’t even feel it. As I entered the store I was frantically running, trying to keep Meenakshi as concealed as possible, knocking over clothes as I pulled the stroller behind me and hurtled down the aisles. I started to crouch behind the checkout counter when two women who were employees of the store were screaming for me to come deeper into the back of the store. So I kept running. There was so much panic in their eyes that I thought for sure the shooter was behind me but I had to keep moving. Later I learned that the person who was shot in the foot was not more than 200 feet from where Meenakshi was playing. Once safely inside the store and after making contact with Radhai and assuring myself that she was out of the mall Meenakshi and I sat and waited with about 20 other people. Then a man came to the closed gate at the H&M entrance and started yelling. We couldn’t see him and he couldn’t see us. In hindsight I think he was a mall patron trying to get to safety, but I don’t know. There was a box of cups next to me and I ripped the cups out and stuffed Meenakshi into the box, thinking that if someone came in to start shooting at least she would be out of sight. Finally a swat team let us out. They had body armor, huge guns, and there were a lot of them. I looked around the mall as we were being escorted out and it looked like the apocalypse. There were abandoned strollers, food trays with half eaten meals, coats, spilled drinks, a random shoe here and there, children’s toys strewn about. There were armed officers at every corner. My hands were shaking. As I approached the mall exit I realized Meenakshi’s coat was somewhere buried under the stroller so I took of my coat and wrapped her in it while some kind soul held the door open for me and patiently waited for me to bundle her up. I met Radhai outside and we hugged for a long time and left.
We finally made it home safely. And after coming home and hugging my family and crying I felt confused, grateful, scared, but mostly shaken up. Today, I feel angry. I feel angry that some 19 year old boy wielded a weapon of such destruction so irresponsibly and made me and hundreds of other families feel so frightened that they might lose their children, spouses, or their own lives. I feel angry that a day of fun at the mall turned into a chaotic war zone with bullet riddled walls left behind as evidence. I feel angry that now when we go out I view it as a calculated risk that something like this might happen again because somebody is having a bad day and has easy access to a gun. Guns belong on the battle field, not in the mall.

This boy had an overwhelming amount of ammunition and home made bombs on him. The prospect of what might have happened is horrifying. I am most of all angry that in spite of all the events over the last decade that have happened in this country, nothing will change. Clearly it doesn’t matter whether adults or children are murdered, we still need to make sure that everyone can have a gun.”

The shootings, which also left five other people injured, ended a violent week which saw shootings or gun scares at American schools or shopping centers — ordinary places where people once felt safe.dition.cnn.com/2014/01/26/us/maryland-mall-shooting/

Schools, movie theaters where a dad is texting his babysitter, malls. So the question remains, are we willing to give up our freedom to congregate and walk freely in public for the narrow interpretation and political might of the gun lobby? What kind of freedom is that? Let’s get money out of politics, and the NRA out of our politician’s pockets.

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